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Lionfish Infestation: Can Eating the Venomous Lionfish Help Save the Planet?

Jun 16, 2016 03:40 PM EDT
Lionfish At Artisanal Foods
A lionfish swims in a tank at Artisanal Foods on February 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Photo : Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Save the planet, eat the enemy.

According to the World Lionfish Hunters Association, lionfish eat everything that they can fit into their mouths and that their stomachs can handle. These include juvenile fishes and grazers which are responsible for cleaning the reef. They can eat up to 30 times their own stomach volume.

Because they are among the fastest breeders in the ocean, lionfish is seen as a threat to the reef which houses marine organisms and protect coastlines; and consequently a threat to native fish stocks and livelihoods. notes that at present, the lionfish invasion stretches from Massachusetts to Florida to Venezuela and encompasses the entire Gulf of Mexico and every shoreline in its water.

Experts have not clearly identified how the invasive species has reached the United States waters, since they are native in the Indo-Pacific. But according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), lionfish, being popular with aquarists, might have escaped to the wild via aquarium releases.

In effort to eradicate the invasive lionfish and reduce environmental pressures caused by its predation, some of the restaurants in the U.S. are offering lionfish on their food aisle. One of which is Whole Foods market.

According to National Geographic, lionfish can be turned into a delicious meal, such as ceviche.

If you are preparing the lionfish yourself, keep in mind that the spikes are venomous and they must be removed. Once you dispose of the 18 spines, the meat is good to go. suggests that lionfish have been shown to be high in the heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, and lower in saturated fats and heavy metals, such as mercury.

From 2009 to 2012, derbies run by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) removed more than 10,000 lionfish. However, it is still not enough, as female lionfish can release  up to 2 million eggs a year.

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